My social work practice experience informs my research agenda - to explore the systemic and structural gendered racism that lead to lack of educational equity and opportunity for Black girls and women. While working as a mental health specialist in St. Vincent Family Center’s therapeutic school-based program, I saw how school leaders and staff often engaged with Black students based on their biases, which led to student pathways characterized by school failure, dropout, and juvenile justice involvement. This experience propelled me to examine bias in education system and structure, and how it affected Black students’ outcomes. Recognizing how the school to prison pipeline disproportionately affects Black girls with mental health issues, I realized the importance of focusing specifically on the gendered racial experiences that they encounter in these settings.
The pursuit of my research agenda while enrolled at U.H. has resulted in public impact scholarship. For example, quantitative findings from my study "The relationship between externalizing behavior and school and familial attachments among girls from diverse backgrounds," published in Child and Youth Services Review, suggest that school suspension is a stronger predictor of Black girls' delinquent behavior compared to other girls. Findings also note that school belongingness is a more substantial protective factor against delinquent behavior among Black girls. These findings led me to conduct various community trainings in partnership with nonprofit organizations such as Change Happens! In Houston, TX, and university programs such as Howard University's School of Education (HUSOE). These training allowed me to explain the research outcomes and implications in a clear and reachable way to inform practice among social workers, educators, and juvenile correctional officers.
My dissertation, The Process of Student Success Among Black Women, builds my research trajectory. I aim to construct a gendered racial theory of student success to explore how Black girls and women's school experiences influence their academic and gendered racial identity development and their social, emotional, and educational success pathways. Informed by Black Feminist Thought and social work empowerment, the constructed theory will advance Black feminist epistemologies, as it illuminates the specific needs of Black girls and women in academic spaces from their own perspectives. Preliminary findings have revealed the need for prevention and intervention programs to promote resilience in young Black girls enrolled in predominately White institutions, offer safe spaces in schools and families for girls to discuss gendered racism, and facilitate cascading mentorship for and between Black girls and women. My dissertation has laid a solid foundation for my future research. I plan to use my dissertation findings to develop, implement, and evaluate a multi-level preventative program that embraces an ecological approach to building resilience in Black girls. My dissertation findings will also inform the creation and evaluation of a multi-tiered cascading mentorship intervention to interrupt the school to prison pipeline and instead construct a school to PhD pipeline among Black girls and women. Working on behalf of Black Girls Achieve PhDs (BAPS), a nonprofit organization that I founded that focuses on creating pathways to higher education for Black girls, I plan to seek funding for this work through the Small Research Grant on Education awarded by the Spencer Foundation to fund a pilot study. I plan to then apply for a large grant with the National Center for Education Statistics to fund a subsequent randomized controlled trial.